Hearts Warmed and Souls Stirred: Divergent Paths of the Nineteenth Century American Revival

Speaker: Categories: Jan 11, 1997


[1hr, 1min, 28sec / 34min, 58sec]


What if some years ago you had planted a seedling fruit tree of unknown origin? What if this past summer it bore fruit for the first time? What if, to your amazement, peaches, pears, apples, and nectarines were all developing nicely on this one tree -- but each variety of fruit on a different branch? A first response might be to make a hurried call to the Agricultural Extension Office seeking some explanation for this strange phenomenon. One might search out that college biology text to see if there might be a plausible explanation you missed in class.

Common Roots - - Different Shoots might describe both the illustration cited above and this month' s Forum topic. Could four such very different fruits actually emerge from a common rootstock? More specifically, could four very different religious perspectives develop from the same cultural heritage?

Intrigued by this very question, Jeff Needle's research led him to some very interesting conclusions. He notes: "Early and mid-19th [century] America witnessed a revival of interest in religion, particularly in upstate New York and the Boston area. Today several major religious organizations remain as the heirs of this revival."

Do you know which ones trace their origins to this time period and to this locale? Jeff provides the answer: "Among them [these religious organizations] may be counted the Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Scientists." He continues, "When one considers the striking differences between the adherents of these belief systems, and the variety of world views and lifestyles of their adherents, the spectrum of beliefs raises interesting questions."

Would you agree? Would not such sibling differences cause one to ponder about the parental environment of early development? Other than the historical time period and geographic location, what else do these offspring have in common? And in what dramatic ways do they differ? How might such differences be explained? In fact, are those differences actually as defined as we might have thought? Are SDAs more like Christian Scientists than like Baptists -- or Methodists? What would it have been like to be living in the New York or Boston area in the early or mid portion of the nineteenth century? What might the billboards have advertised regarding revival meetings?


Jeff Needle, born in a Jewish home, became an SDA in 1968. He is a religious eclectic (editor's terminology) who has been involved in the experiences of many different religious groups. He has preached in Adventist pulpits across the United States, given campmeeting presentations in New York, in Ohio, and in California.

He has directed workshops on Revelation from the preterist point of view (hardly Adventist) in the Episcopal and Mennonite churches using his own self-authored text, a verse-by-verse commentary on this last book of the Bible.

On two occasions he has spoken at Sunstone, an organization within the Mormon church made up of the intellectual elite, probing questions in ways similar to the Forum within Adventism. He has been an active member/presenter of the San Diego Study Group, an LDS organization which meets monthly.

He has led retreats for the Tierrasanta SDA church, taught Old Testament history classes for Adventist, Episcopal, Mennonite, and Mormon churches as well as for the Unity School of Christianity. In 1989 he authored "The Old Testament -- A Trailblazer's Guide," the text used for the Old Testament classes. He has had numerous teaching/facilitator roles within the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego as well as the Disciples of Christ in Community. He is an experienced, knowledgeable, self-educated authority who is willing to share some of his research with us on January 11.

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